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Jackets thrilled to select dynamic, skilled Milano

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

PHILADELPHIA -- If there weren't outward displays of emotion, there were definitely a few internal fist pumps at the Blue Jackets' draft table when the Detroit Red Wings made their selection.

One of Columbus' top targets - United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) star Sonny Milano of the Long Island area - was still on the board, and there was little discussion when it came time to make the pick.

The Blue Jackets (along with many draft experts) believe Milano is one of the most skilled players in this draft class, and his point production seems to back that up.

"He was very high on our list," Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He's a very skilled forward, a creative forward also. Our scouts very high on him, as well. He seems like a pretty mature kid physically, too, but I think there's a lot of growing up to and a lot of hard work ahead of him."

Milano, who played 50 games this season with the USTNDP's U18 club, recorded 72 points - 24 goals and 48 assists - and he feels there's a lot more that he can give.

And that's part of what drew the Blue Jackets to Milano; despite the YouTube attention he drew as a 14-year-old, he's a driven and determined kid who has made a huge mark on the program in Ann Arbor. Milano started skating almost as soon as he could walk, thanks to his sister dropping out of figure skating lessons and little brother taking her spot.

It was quite the journey from toddler skating lessons to center stage at the NHL Draft, but Milano never lost sight of his ultimate goal. He took a big step toward it on Friday night.

"When I heard them call my name, I was so excited," Milano said. "You're a little nervous sitting there, and you want to go to a place where someone wants you. There's a little bit of pressure, but it's fine.

"To be able to play for Columbus...I lived in Ohio for a year, ad I got to know Columbus pretty well and got to watch some of their games. It's a really good feeling."

Milano spent the 2011-12 season playing junior hockey for the Cleveland Barons program, a long way from home but an experience he looks back on fondly. The Barons came highly recommended to Milano and his family - his sister's ex-boyfriend once played there and spoke highly of the organization - and in the process, Milano got what would eventually be a sneak preview of a place he may eventually call home.

Better yet: his billet family in Cleveland was full of Blue Jackets fans, so there were many nights spent watching their games. He paid close attention to their first-round playoff series against the Penguins this year, a series he thought the Blue Jackets could very easily have won.

Following the Blue Jackets has also convinced Milano that he's exactly the type of player the organization needs. He felt the same way after interviewing with Columbus at the Scouting Combine in Toronto, too.

"You don't really know what teams are going to take you or not, and you're sitting there all nervous and sweating and stuff," Milano said of Friday's first round. "I thought my Columbus interview went pretty well (at the Combine), and I thought they were maybe one of the teams that was more interested than other teams.

"I'm an offensive player. I can create plays and make the players around me better. I have pretty good hands, good feet and I just like to put points on the board and compete hard."

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